I used to call it that

Last week I took the opportunity to be quiet before God and seek His guidance on what I needed to write. The result was a brief discussion about honesty. I actually rewrote this column twice because the first one was extremely long. So this week you get the next edition of ravings on the word honesty.

I had avoided posting deeper things on Facebook lately. I think most people blow right through the deep thoughts and just want the quizzes and the trivial stuff.

But I got out of my rut and posted the following: “When we talk about ministry in tough places, we tend to think of slums in India, poor parts of the world, and ghettos in America. However, the ministry of the gospel in the most difficult places can be the comfortable home of well-educated and prosperous individuals who fear the movement of the Spirit which will disturb their apathy. I didn’t expect a lot of response.

One of the answers took me by surprise. I had not seen or had a meaningful conversation with this gentleman in some time. He replied, “20 years later and JR still calls it that. The hardest place to bring healing is at home. Thank you for staying true to the call.

I was humble. I had walked away from those things and I’m only coming back now. I am silent for a moment under the spell of religion. Religion teaches us to stick to a code book instead of the Bible. This codebook could be written or just in our brains. I had fallen prey to building an earthly kingdom instead of being, as I said last week, honest and truthful toward the heavenly kingdom.

I used to call it that. I used to not fear the answer. Funny thing is, I don’t fear the response from non-believers. I fear the response of those who would be in the category of “Christians”. The world of ministry can be just as troublesome as working in the secular world. In fact, it can be worse, because often the lines can get blurry.

People ask me all the time why I think modern church attendance is down. I’ve had a lot of discussions about whether or not to stream the church service. Personally, I don’t think it has anything to do with actual church attendance. I think a lot of modern churches have become religious stopovers. Go Sunday. Worship. Maybe attend some kind of Christian education. Show up once in a while when it’s comfortable and the dust of Jesus will be scattered on us and we’ll be A-OK.

Tell people who post things like me that they’re too passionate, and I hope they stop. Well-meaning people have told me many times that I’m too passionate. We wonder why church leaders have honesty issues. We wonder why a once vibrant church has fallen into an apathetic rut. Look no further than our own hearts.

What have the leaders of the modern American church done? Instead of raising the bar, they lowered it and became introverted. Instead of having a Christian upbringing that called people to something and someone beyond themselves, we catered to their whims and desires. We tickled their ears.

The apostle Paul told Timothy this would happen. In II Timothy 2 he writes, “And they shall turn their ears away from the truth, and turn to fables. Paul is not talking about the radical left. He does not talk about the opposing political party. He does not speak of the world. It’s about people who confess, believe the Bible (or so they thought).

In 2022, we need a renewal. We don’t need a revival in Washington. We don’t need a revival in the general community. We need a revival in the hearts and lives of believers. We need to be honest that we have a natural tendency to want to tickle our ears. We have to confess it and turn away from it.

When was the last time you heard someone say they left their last church because of theological instability? Usually you’ll hear, “The pastor just didn’t feed me.” If we were honest, you would hear, “I didn’t like the way the preacher preached. My ears were not tickled.

Meanwhile, the pastor is more than a little concerned about the apathy he sees in his sheep. Instead of giving them what they need, he succumbs to the pressure and gives them what they want. They want nice gospel with a nice environment (no crying kids and music that I like) with nice people (just like me).

Readers, the gospel is war, and we are at war. The world, flesh and demon, seeks to undermine the power of the gospel not so much with wild sin but more with, as we used to say in Maryland, “the land of the pleasant life.” If we all look deeply at the gospel, there is only one pleasant thing about it. Jesus Christ came to redeem man from his sin, including a good life.

I preached like that in my first sermon here in Bluffton 16 years ago. A man came and said I wouldn’t be here long because those who live here don’t want to hear such things. Well, I’m still here and he’s long gone. I don’t really know of a pleasant gospel. I only know Jesus, and the Word says “by his stripes we are healed”. I beg your pardon for not responding to the whims of others. Join me in praying for revival among God’s people in 2022.

John Ring is director of Hope for the Community. He can be contacted at [email protected]

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